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Sit-Ups and Sundaes Don't Mix: Diet With Exercise Works Best

If you're overweight and hoping to shed pounds, but still regularly indulging in french fries — don't count on exercise to salvage your weight-loss efforts. //To truly slim down, obese and overweight people need to watch what they eat and get moving, according to a new analysis of weight-loss trials dating back to 1985.

"Exercise by itself is not going to be an effective weight-loss strategy for an individual, you really need to combine exercise with better nutrition," said lead study author Dr. Kelly Shaw.

Shaw is a public health physician with the Department of Health and Human Services in Tasmania, Australia. She was surprised by the amount of weight loss achievable through diet alone, compared to exercise. "I thought that exercise would result in greater weight loss than it did as a stand-alone intervention," she said.

"If you are a reductionist and came to me and said, 'Look I want to lose weight and I'm prepared to diet or exercise, but not both, what should I do?' My response would be, you need to look at your nutritional intake because there’s a bigger bang for your buck from modifying nutrition than there is with physical activity," Shaw said.

The review of 43 trials appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

"The literature is pretty clear that, in the short run, diet is way more important than activity for weight loss," said John Jakicic, a health researcher who was not involved in the Cochrane review. "One candy bar can completely wipe out a bout of exercise," Jakicic said.

"Within six months, with diet alone we can get about a 9 or 10 kilogram weight loss, which is over 20 pounds, versus with ac
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